It’s not often you’re treated to performance poetry in a setting with as much production value as this. In the theatre at the Scottish Storytelling Centre the show begins with a short light and sound display and then an introductory video: How to be a poet. It tells us there are three key attributes necessary: a tortured soul, an addition and a proper grasp of poetic devices.
The performer wins us over with the power of words that sparkle, that amuse, that move and that inspire.
Then the poetics begin. The band underscores Miko Berry as he tells us he is ‘Not Often Lost for Words’ in a beautiful piece that also incorporates tongue twisters. Berry is very talented (also a bit of a show-off, but more on that later) and this piece sets the tone for an exceptional night: the rock and roll of performance poetry. Kevin McLean and Douglas Garry first take to the stage as a duo celebrating the benefits of dating ‘big guys’. It’s no holds barred, including clambering onto the seats in the audience. There’s a nice change in mood when Anges Török delivers a piece that subverts the questions gay people endure.
Berry, McLean, Garry and Török are four members of the Loud Poets collective and all take to the stage several times throughout the show. They are joined by special guests Paula Varjack who provides amusing advice on why you should never date an artist and when she gets to the bit about musicians, the band nods in agreement: never give a musician the ultimatum ‘it’s me or the band’. Tim Clare offers up a visceral piece about a gristly place called Noah’s Arc Bar and Grill.
The highlight of the evening is when Berry delivers a slam poem – perfectly timed to run to two and a half minutes precisely. A timer counts down behind him and just to add to the challenge and because his colleagues have decided he’s a show-off (here we learn he is the Scottish Poetry Slam Champion and came fourth in the world championships), Berry is blindfolded so he can’t see time elapse. He’s so dead on with his timing that at key points in the piece he spits out the exact same number we see projected behind him.
There are disadvantages and advantages to having this performance in a theatre rather than the usual environment of a pub because without pint glasses in hand the audience is not as loud as they would be otherwise, however the lights and multimedia elevate this beyond what you would expect from the usual slam or performance. Most importantly, it means we are better able to focus on the poetry. The spoken word, after all, are why we are here and the performer wins us over with the power of words that sparkle, that amuse, that move and that inspire.